Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published March 10th 2014
Rapid Waters Rushing By
Poulter Park, London Road, Mitcham
Sun, glorious sun, yes, it finally has arrived. No longer confined to the house, I took full advantage of the unusually fine March weather by taking a visit to Poulter Park. Poulter is an interesting name, and although I could not find any information about the history of the park, the word derives from sixteenth century France for a dealer in chickens. This makes me wonder if the land was once used for farming. Indeed, the park does have a rural looking house on site.
The building looks beautiful, and the residents have a lovely view of the River Wandle, but I must admit, if I lived there, I would be in constant fear of flooding.
Poulter Park is owned by The National Trust, and on the day I was there, a clean up crew were working. The Wandle Valley Big Green Fund Project involves removing small trees and scrub to clear the new route made for the Wandle Trail. The clean up is intended to create more space alongside the river to make it safer. As I wandered round, I could see why; it is a bit of a hazardous area at the moment.
This is the 'path' in Poulter Park.
Currently there are no intentionally constructed paths, only worn away grass eroded by walkers. As I walked along, I saw a number of volunteers picking up rubbish, one man even stopped me and asked if I was going off for lunch, because he thought I was a member of the team. I felt a bit guilty that I wasn't, like I should be helping out.
Although the shrubbery is overgrown, the river is heavily regulated. The first point of interest being a beautiful man-made waterfall, running into a shallow stream.
Beside the waterfall is a stone bench. When I first saw it, it looked as if it were on an island, and wondered how it had been put there. A second glance made me realise that the bench was not on an island, but a hill, and can be reached by taking a back passage that I hadn't previously spotted. The bench is in memory of Miranda Hill (Born January 1st 1836 - Died May 31st 1910) 'by some of her grateful and affectionate pupils'. Miranda Hill was a social reformer who worked on major housing projects in England. She was from a poor background, and never went to school, but to earn a living, became a teacher at thirteen. Hill founded the Kyrle Society, which promoted open spaces and saved numerous stretches of heathland and woodland in London. One of the members went on to be a council member of the National Trust, which explains what the bench is doing there.
One of the park's many wiers.
Forks in the road both please and annoy me. I like the fact that there are extra places to explore, but I am terrible at making decisions. I eventually went left, which took me weir. It is here that I must point out that if you have kids with you, keep an eye on them at all times; the current is very fast, and the bank very low.
Volunteers handy work.
The area surrounding the weir was heavily overgrown, so I went back to the bench route. It was here that I saw the results of some of the volunteers' handy work. They have been busy little beavers cutting down trees.
The River needs a bit of a clear out too.
A riddle for you: when can a coot walk on water? When the river is swamped with pond weed. The park is not the only thing overgrown with shrubbery. There is a lot of plant life clogging up the gentle parts of the river.
Bridges in need of some repair work.
I'm glad to see that the park is receiving some much needed attention; as at the moment, it is not the safest place to take a walk. With loose and missing boards on the bridges, and broken railings, you need to be careful were you put your footing.
All these obstacles does make the trip more interesting though. The felled trees are good for climbing, there are animal burrows to search for, and a distinct damp smell makes you almost forget you're minutes away from a main road.
Could this lead to a magical realm?
Poulter Park feels a bit like a place pulled out of an Edith Nesbit adventure; I saw some mysterious steps on the opposite side of the bank, which I could just imagine leads to a secret magical world full of fantasy. I couldn't figure out how to get over there, which is maybe a good thing, because the the reality is probably far less exciting.
I followed the river round the bend, and the long stretch took me right back to the weir. It was a bit like that moment when Piglet, Pooh and Rabbit kept arriving back at the sandpit, whichever direction they walked in. Fortunately for me, this was a point of reference rather than a point of lostness. I did have one moment of panic, though, when I came to leave. When the clean up crew left, they had locked the gates. Fortunately there was a gap under the padlock that I managed to squeeze through, otherwise I would have been there somewhat longer than intended.
At the moment Poulter Park is not a place for a picnic, to take the kids to play, or even walk the dog, but it has inspirational river views, and the bumpy terrain offers more of a workout than your average stroll. I can see the potential of this place in the future, as a great route for the Wandle Trail.